Russia-Ukraine wars biggest TikTok myths debunked – including weird explosions

TikTok is often the place of an unfounded conspiracy or two, and there are plenty of fake videos claiming to be from the Russia-Ukraine war.

They can easily take off as people spread 'interesting' arguments.

However, this can also mean that false information spreads very quickly and can be extremely unhelpful, particularly during times of war.

There have been a number of fake news TikTok videos spread online and on the app and myths can spread at the push of a button.

Clear information is very important at the moment as Russia does its best to limit knowledge of what is going on in the war and to stop people from finding things out at home.

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The Ukrainian officials have also been quick to bolster rumours or give sometimes unverified information, such as the propaganda around the 'Ghost of Kyiv', a supposed fighter jet ace patrolling the skies shooting down huge numbers of Russian planes.

So what are the craziest TikTok myths and which ones need to be debunked?

Is Vladimir Putin ill?

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TikTok account @dose_of_reddit reposted a Reddit theory that Russian president Vladimir Putin is terminally ill, viewed over 700,000 times so far. The account said: "I'm just reposting other people's opinions, follow for more conspiracy theories and interesting facts."

This is a common theory, but an unfounded one. The reasoning behind it is that people are looking for answers as to why Putin is acting in the way he is at the moment.

This doesn't necessarily help the discussion on the conflict, particularly as it is also used in conspiracy theories that suggest the president will order a nuclear strike.

While he has ordered his nuclear deterrent forces on high alert, there is no suggestion that Russia plans to use nuclear weapons yet.

Despite this, Russia expert Fiona Hill recently speculate speculated that he may not be well, telling Politico: "Putin’s not looking so great, he’s been rather puffy-faced."

While the health and life of the Russian president is indeed kept very private, there are no confirmed reports that he is unwell. The Kremlin called the rumours "absolute nonsense".

Who is the 'Ghost of Kyiv'?

The Ghost of Kyiv is one story that blew up online about a Ukrainian pilot shooting down Russian planes.

A video released on Ukraine's official Twitter said: "In the first 30 hours of the Russian invasion in February 2022 he shot down six Russian military aircraft. As of February 26 – 10 military planes of the occupiers.

"And although it is still unknown who is piloting the Ukrainian MiG-29 plane and whether he is responsible for the 10 downed Russian planes, Ukrainians are grateful to this hero with brass balls, who’s having Russian aircraft for breakfast."

It is easy to see why the Ghost of Kyiv has become so popular and why Ukrainian authorities might want to jump on the story.

For Ukrainians, it may inspire people to join the resistance against the Russian invaders as well as boost morale.

A Reuters Fact Check later showed that some of the supposed footage of the pilot was from a 2008 video game.

Russian soldiers 'face to face'

It is very difficult for footage of fighting to emerge as, simply, the last thing on the mind of a soldier in combat is to whip his phone out and start filming.

So footage of Russian soldiers shown face to face was not actually all it seemed.

It was watched five million times and showed that the way TikTok is designed can work against the user looking for clear information.

Sam Gregory, the program director of Witness, told NPR that watching a video repeatedly to see if it is indeed authentic tells the app's algorithm that the user wants more videos like this.

He said: "And the volume of misleading videos does seem new to me. Some people are doing it because they want attention, some people want to monetise it, others are doing it potentially as misinformation and disinformation."

Was there a weird explosion in Ukraine?

A video of a lightning strike has over 24,000 views and is captioned: “Russia attack multiple cities in Ukraine and declare War.”

However, Full Fact checked the video and found the mysterious flash in the night sky was due to lighting – it began appearing on TikTok as early as January 29, so a good few weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine.

Rumours about the type of weapons Russia are prepared to use are circling widely on social media, so people may be quick to jump to the conclusion that the lightning strike is some kind of weird explosion.

What was the huge explosion in Ukraine?

Audio from the enormous explosion in Beirut in 2020 has been used in some videos purportedly of the war.

The blast destroyed a large part of the city and the visible shockwave stunned those who saw the video at the time. It caused untold damage and a large number of deaths, so it is unfortunate that people were using the audio to exaggerate video of the war in Ukraine.

Group Media Matters found that a video featuring audio from the blast was viewed around six million times in only 12 hours.

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